On this day in 1843 at the age of 52, Isabella Baumfree became Sojourner Truth and devoted the next 40 years of her life into liberating her people and spreading the gospel.
Born in New York State presumably around 1797 as Isabella Baumfree, she was bought and sold for much of her young life. In 1815, she met and fell in love with a slave from another farm, Robert, and had a daughter, Diana. The pair would never see each other again, and Baumfree was forced to marry another slave, Thomas. The pair eventually had three children.
New York was close to passing a law to abolish slavery in 1826 when Baumfree’s owner denied her the freedom he’d promised. She escaped with her daughter that year. Her five-year-old son, Peter, was illegally sold to a man in Alabama and Baumfree successfully sued to gain her son’s freedom, one of the first instances of such success.
Baumfree converted to Christianity and moved to New York City with her son in 1829. She did domestic work for a church and alleged cult leader, enduring hardships and accusations that she poisoned a popular rival church leader. Truth successfully sued the couple who brought the false claims. After losing her son a second time in 1842 when he took a job on a whaling ship, she began life as Sojourner Truth in 1843.
Embracing the ideals of Methodism and the abolition of slavery, Truth joined an abolitionist society and connected with great minds of the movement such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. At the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Truth delivered her famous “Ain’t I A Woman” speech which cemented her as a leader in the women’s rights movement.
Truth worked tirelessly into her old age to continue to help liberate free or escaped slaves while focusing on prison reform, women’s suffrage and other causes.
Sojourner Truth passed in 1833 at the age of 92.
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